Take heart, garage-rock fans: In this age of platinum-selling punks, Denver's Sissy Fuzz is keeping the do-it-yourself ethos alive.
"When we started, we'd just been saying, `Wouldn't it be fun if we were in a band?'" recounts drummer Cincy Woods. "And Andy [Falconetti, the group's guitarist and lead singer] was the only one who knew how to play. None of us had ever played before, but we formed the band and then we taught ourselves how to play."
Are the members of Sissy Fuzz (Woods, Falconetti, bassist Wendy Fisher and guitarist/vocalist Jody Schneider) rank amateurs? Yes--but the music world could probably do with more inspired newbies. And the Sissies take pride in their total lack of sheen. "I think a lot of people like that raw edge instead of being really polished, like something you'd hear on the radio. It has this raw energy," Woods explains. "There are so many bands that play for years to get really tight and then they're just going through the motions. We work at it a lot more now than we used to, trying to get shows and recording, stuff like that--but it hasn't gotten to the point where it's like we're connecting dots."
In fact, the Sissy Fuzz sound is the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting; the players let the notes fall where they may. They're still too excited by each other's company and the simple pleasures of songwriting to worry about much else. "It's not that we lack ambition," Schneider insists. "But then, it's not like we're in the basement going, `We've got to get signed, man!' We don't have a whole lot of goals, and we don't put a lot of expectations on ourselves. We're really just going out to have fun. It's like a comfortable relationship. We don't want to spoil it by getting too serious."
That's not a concern at this point: On stage, the players mainly radiate simple, bittersweet joy. And if they don't hit every note or keep every beat, well, that's fine by them. "We do tend to be sloppy sometimes," Falconetti concedes. "Sometimes we stray all over the rhythmic map." The result is equal parts melodious old-school pop and lo-fi indie rock. "It sounds like a car radio," Schneider says. "Not a car stereo, but a car radio."
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The band, whose name was suggested by members of Foreskin 500 over dinner at the Olde Spaghetti Factory in Lawrence, Kansas, got its start in the spring of 1994, when Falconetti, Woods and Fisher began playing parties in Boulder and Denver. And while Falconetti was clearly the musical veteran at that point, he was hardly a polished professional. Even today, he admits, "I'm not familiar enough with the equipment to make a lot of sounds. I mean, I've got various guitar pedals and stuff, but I don't know. We never set out to say, `Okay, this sounds this way, so we'll tweak this.'"
Schneider, once part of the now-defunct 40th Day ("I was about their tenth bassist," she jokes), joined the combo earlier this year and contributed to its first recording, a six-song cassette. The sound put forth there and in performances since is hummable, melancholy, catchy and, as the name implies, fuzzy. "Some guy told us we sounded like a cross between the Shags and the Cocteau Twins," Falconetti reveals, laughing. "I didn't know how to respond. I didn't know if that was a compliment or not."
According to Falconetti and pals, the bands they enjoy hearing on a regular basis include the Velvet Underground, Teenage Fanclub, the Smiths and R.E.M. "I've always been a big fan of pop music--not so much contemporary pop but stuff from the Sixties," Falconetti says. "And I try to write pop songs that have quirks. I've always been a real sucker for hooks, and at the same time I like bands like, say, Pavement, who have these great pop songs that are buried in a lot of dissonance and a lot of weird structures. Or like the Flaming Lips. They're a really melodic band, but the melody's kind of buried in their mix. I like that a lot."
The performers will get a chance to emulate this sound soon: They're scheduled to enter an actual studio to record a four-song EP for Blue Lamp Records, which is run by their friend John Meggitt, leader of the Denver group El Espectro. They caution, though, that such a step doesn't imply any change in direction. "It's still like, `We can hear ourselves, so, cool--let's play,'" Schneider points out. "People ask me, `How long have you been playing guitar?' And I say, `What time is it?'